Hallandale Beach, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - Swale Stakes winner Spot will start in the $1 million Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on March 29.
Trainer Nick Zito confirmed the start in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby after Spot had a workout at Palm Meadows. The 3-year-old colt worked four furlongs in 47.70 seconds.
"It was huge, very huge," Zito said. "I'm very, very happy with it. He's a horse that keeps improving, knock on wood."
Spot, ridden by Jose Lezcano, recorded his first stakes win with the Swale and earned $120,000. The gray gelding has two wins in six starts for $151,632.
"I don't have Lezcano (to ride in the Florida Derby), but I've never seen a horse go out for a big race without a jockey on it," Zito said. "Right now I'm leaning toward Corey Lanerie. He rides there all the time. He's a good rider, a good guy."
After finishing second in his career debut last June at Arlington Park, Spot finished 10th on the turf at Arlington and fifth at Keeneland. The gelding broke his maiden in October at Hawthorne Racecourse. He came back last month to finish fifth behind Wildcat Red in Gulfstream's Hutcheson Stakes.
"Let's just hope he's getting good at the right time," said Zito who has saddled three Florida Derby winners: High Fly (2005), Ice Box (2010) and Dialed In (2011).
Other Florida Derby contenders working out Saturday at Palm Meadows were Matador and Constitution.
Matador breezed five furlongs in 1:01 and Constitution had a half-mile workout in 49.30 seconds.
"He worked well. We put a little sharper breeze into him leading up to the race. We're hoping to keep him a little closer to the pace," trainer Mark Casse said about Matador. "He loves the dirt. He's really trained well at Palm Meadows. Julien (jockey Julien Leparoux) said he couldn't get him motivated last time, so we're going to give blinkers a try."
Matador was fifth last time in the Tampa Bay Derby after beginning the year with a fourth in Tampa Bay's Davis Stakes.
Constitution, trained by Todd Pletcher, is undefeated in two starts at Gulfstream.